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Pre-Birth Factors, Post-Birth Factors, and Voting: Evidence from Swedish Adoption Data

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2014

New York University
Stockholm School of Economics
Uppsala University
David Cesarini is Assistant Professor of Economics at the Center for Experimental Social Science, New York University, 19 W. 4th Street, 6FL, New York, NY 10012 and the Division of Social Science, New York University Abu Dhabi, PO Box 129188, Abu Dhabi, UAE ( He is also affiliated with the Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Stockholm, Sweden.
Magnus Johannesson is Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, Sveavägen 65, SE-113 83 (
Sven Oskarsson, the corresponding author, is Associate Professor of Political Science, Department of Government, Uppsala University, Box 514, SE-751 20 (


This article analyzes a rich Swedish data set with information on the electoral turnout of a large sample of adoptees, their siblings, their adoptive parents, and their biological parents. We use a simple regression framework to decompose the parent-child resemblance in voting into pre-birth factors, measured by biological parents’ voting, and post-birth factors, measured by adoptive parents’ voting. Adoptees are more likely to vote if their biological parents were voters and if they were assigned to families in which the adoptive parents vote. We find evidence of interactions between the pre- and post-birth factors: the effect of the post-birth environment on turnout is greater amongst adoptees whose biological mothers are nonvoters. We also show that the relationships between parental characteristics, such as education, and child turnout, persist even in the absence of a genetic link between parent and child. The regression-based framework we utilize provides a basis for the integration of behavior-genetic research into mainstream political science.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2014 

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